Continuants and occurrents, I

Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 74 (1):59–75 (2000)
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[Peter Simons] Commonsense ontology contains both continuants and occurrents, but are continuants necessary? I argue that they are neither occurrents nor easily replaceable by them. The worst problem for continuants is the question in virtue of what a given continuant exists at a given time. For such truthmakers we must have recourse to occurrents, those vital to the continuant at that time. Continuants are, like abstract objects, invariants under equivalences over occurrents. But they are not abstract, and their being invariants enables us to infer both their lack of temporal parts and that non-invariant predications about them must be relativized to times. \\\ [Joseph Melia] In this paper I try to eliminate occurrents from our ontology. I argue against Simons' position that occurrents are needed to supply truthmakers for existential claims about continuants. Nevertheless, those who would eliminate occurrents still need some account of our willingness to assert sentences that logically entail their existence. Though it turns out to be impossible to paraphrase away our reference to occurrents, I show that the truthmakers for such sentences are facts that involve only continuants. This is enough to allow us to regard our ordinary talk about occurrents as fictional. Finally, I argue that a proper conception of the underlying temporal facts about continuants can both avoid the problematic tensed theory of time and the problem of temporary intrinsics



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Peter Simons
Trinity College, Dublin

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